Traditional healers have lambasted government for continuing to sideline them, despite the fact that they have substantially contributed to the growth of the medical sector in Botswana.
Speaking at a seminar hosted for psychiatric practitioners, caregivers and traditional doctors last week, the traditional doctors and faith healers said that it is high time government took heed of their grievances and gave them the support and recognition that they deserve.
A representative from the Dingaka Association, Sesamotho Malaita, said that it is time for government to fortify their role in the medical arena, especially in the treatment of mental health conditions.
The seminar was conducted following an increase in the number of mental health cases in Botswana. Statistics show that about 3.7 % of the total population is suffering from mental health conditions. In the midst of this dilemma, many Batswana still lack information as to the real causes of mental illnesses.
Malaita countered a presentation by Principal Health Education Officer, Regina Gaborone, who attributed mental health problems to heredity, drug
abuse, accidents and alcohol abuse.
Malaita argued that mental health has its roots in witchcraft and traditional spirits (badimo), saying that no one is born with mental problems.
“As traditional healers, we know the causes of mental disorders, and we know how to treat such cases. We have been treating mental health cases for a long time, even before modern medicine was introduced. Therefore we feel that we should be taken aboard as stakeholders in this issue,” he said.
He also encouraged government to work with them and introduce a referral system in which both modern doctors and traditional healers collaborate in treating mental patients.
The traditional doctors also appealed to government to give them authority to give their patients sick leave. They also requested that they be provided with ambulances to transport their patients to hospital.